cover image Have a Nice Day: 2from the Balkan War to the American Dream

Have a Nice Day: 2from the Balkan War to the American Dream

Dubravka Ugresic. Viking Books, $21.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86016-6

Croatian novelist and journalist Ugresic's quirky, razor-sharp essays comprise a wry look at American life and a jolting, sensitive self-portrait in cultural dislocation. Fleeing wartorn Zagreb in late 1991, she went to Amsterdam, then spent most of 1992 in New York City and teaching at Wesleyan in Connecticut. Americans, in her view, constantly ``network,'' redesign their self-images and compulsively organize their lives, jobs and leisure. She writes that Americans aggressively work at being happy, imitating the synthetic images shown on films and television and in ads. Through a conversation, real or imagined, with her bleached-blonde psychiatrist, Ugresic deflates Western stereotypes of Balkan peoples' ``mythic, tribal thinking.'' Elsewhere she charges that Serbian and Croatian nationalists use patriotic and religious symbols, slogans and kitsch to seduce the masses. Ugresic, who now lives in Berlin, wrote these pieces as columns for an Amsterdam newspaper; though they vary considerably in quality, her nervous, precise prose is a pleasure to read. (Apr.)